Via Gotham Magazine: “Cass Gilbert has his Woolworth Building, and Daniel Burnham has the Flatiron Building. In New York, the most iconic buildings can be matched to their architects faster than you can say “McKim, Mead & White.” However, every so often one is lost to history—even if he was proclaimed “the architect of the century” in a 1957 article in The New York Times. Such is the case with Ralph Walker. But with the conversion of his West 18th Street Telephone Building, the city is reintroduced to one of its visionaries—and 50 families get to call the reimagined Walker Tower home.
Back in the 1920s, the New York Telephone Company needed to reassure customers that its newfangled technology was here to stay, and it delivered that message through the permanence of architecture. When it came time to construct a new office and switching station in Chelsea, the company turned to Ralph Walker, the man who, years earlier, built the
Barclay-Vesey Building at 140 West Street, considered the first Art Deco skyscraper in the city.The sheer size and scale of the building
allow for the units’ most impressive features: ceilings that reach more than 14 feet (with tilt-and-turn windows more than nine feet tall), a lack of interior load-bearing walls (making for a surprisingly open concept), and terraces made from Walker’s signature setbacks that let lucky homeowners look down (literally) on Manhattan’s most expensive real estate in the West Village and Tribeca.
The building also includes every conceivable modern amenity: heated floors in every room, zoned humidification (good for preserving artwork), and a Crestron home automation system that controls everything from lighting to music with the touch of a tablet. “It’s more state-of-the- art than any building in the city,” Stern attests, “yet it lives in this iconic, prewar building with an architectural pedigree.”
JDS, along with co-developer Property Markets Group, painstakingly restored the building’s façade and expanded the building’s four top floors. Careful to make sure this new space worked with Walker’s original design, the team restored the Art Deco ornament on the lobby entrance—highlighting the same flourishes that greeted phone bill payers at street level
nearly 100 years ago. “We didn’t introduce any new shapes, and we stayed true to the materials,” Stern explains. “In fact, we’re the first building to use cast bronze in 70 years.” –Gotham Magazine